Reviews of film screening during the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival.
The British press once described Charles “Charlie” Bronson as the “most violent prisoner in Britain.” He has spent most of his life in prison and for most of that time he has been in solitary confinement. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn likes grim subject matter but audiences expecting the gritty social realism of his Pusher trilogy are going to be very surprised by Bronson, which is a macabre blend of horror and comedy, biographical information and complete fabrication, realism and Brechtian techniques. Bronson is presented as a showman whose acts of violence are his greatest source of self-expression and throughout the film Bronson appears on a stage addressing an unseen audience as if he is taking part in a bizarre one person pantomime. Bronson’s criminality and delusions of grandeur make Bronson comparable to Chopper but the satirical avant garde nature of Bronson also makes it very close in tone to A Clockwork Orange. Considering that Bronson’s sole response to everything he encounters is to simply commit violence, Refn and actor Tom Hardy, who plays Bronson, have done a remarkable job of making such a compelling, entertaining and disturbing film.
Rebiya Kadeer is a successful businesswoman, political activist and human rights advocate. She campaigns for the rights of the Uyghur people who live in Xinjiang, a supposedly autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Known as East Turkistan by the Uyghur people, Xinjiang was annexed by China in 1949, similarly to how China later also annexed Tibet. As a Uyghur person herself, Kadeer has long campaigned about the ethnic, political, religious and economic persecution that her people have suffered. The documentary The 10 Conditions of Love tells Rebiya’s story and she is an extraordinary woman who has made some incredible personal sacrifices to bring the plight of the Uyghur people to the attention of the rest of the world. The 10 Conditions of Love is an eye-opening and moving tribute to her work, which is far from over. It’s a film that needs to be seen and if the recent demands by the Chinese government for it not to be shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival have generated more publicity for the film than it would have attracted otherwise, then this is a good thing.
The German fantasy Krabat is an 18th century tale of magic and morality in the vein of classic Brothers Grimm stories. Based on the 1971 German novel The Satanic Mill, which was based on tales dating back to the 17th century, Krabat is about a 14-year-old boy who joins a secret brotherhood of apprentices training in Black Magic. The boy, Krabat (played by David Kross from The Reader), is initially pleased to have apparently found his place in the world but soon discovers that his training comes with a terrible price. Krabat is a refreshingly highbrow fantasy film that doesn’t contain any extraneous exposition and explanation, uses its special effect sequences sparingly and is incredibly serious. The protagonists of the film may be predominantly teenage boys and young men but this is a film aimed at an adult audience. Nevertheless, there is something a little overtly cold and detached about Krabat that prevents you from becoming fully immersed in its dark and mysterious story.